Emily Thornberry wants to know if Liz Truss broke government rules by hiring ‘Trump-worshipping misogynist’ Tony Abbott

A cut-out of Emily Thornberry, Labour's shadow international trade secretary and MP for Islington South and Finsbury, wearing a black cardigan over a white top as she gestures with her right hand against a pink background

Emily Thornberry has questioned whether trade secretary Liz Truss adhered to government rules in the hiring of “Trump-worshipping misogynist” Tony Abbott.

Abbott, Australia’s former prime minister, was confirmed for the British Board of Trade Friday (September 4). He was linked with the role days earlier, sparking widespread backlash over his views on the LGBT+ community and women, including that children should only be raised by straight couples.

According to The Guardian, Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow international trade secretary, sent Truss 25 questions on Abbott’s rumoured appointment ahead of the official announcement.

Thornberry, who previously described Abbott as a “Trump-worshipping misogynist”, asked Truss whether the post had been advertised according to cabinet office guidelines and whether she and the former Australian prime minister had discussed the job at public events.

She also questioned Abbott’s trade expertise considering that during his time in office this was handled by then Australian trade minister Andrew Robb.

“Where a very high-profile and – if we are frank – controversial external individual looks set to be appointed to a government role of immense importance, and the public are naturally eager to understand not just why but how,” she wrote.

Liz Truss dodged questions on Tony Abbott in the House of Commons.

Truss, who serves as president of the board of trade as well as equalities minister and trade secretary, has come under fire for the appointment of Abbott, a man variously described as a “homophobe”, “misogynist” and “climate change-denier” by many.

In the House of Commons on Thursday (September 3) Labour MP Ruth Cadbury pressed Truss on the appointment, asking: “Could the trade secretary not find an expert for the role who also demonstrates positive British values?”

Truss hit back at Cadbury, calling the criticism of Abbott “absolute hypocrisy”, and insisting that the Labour Party “would rather virtue signal and indulge in tokenism rather than take real action to improve the lives of women”.

She claimed criticism of Abbott is coming only from “those on the left of politics”, seemingly unaware of the fact that Tory MP Caroline Nokes has also hit out at his rumoured appointment.

“This is such a bad idea I’m not sure I can come up with words for how awful I think it is,” Nokes, Conservative chair of the Commons women and equalities committee, told the BBC’s Politics Live on Tuesday (September 1).

Abbott worked hard to oppose same-sex marriage during his time in office, and during a postal vote campaign encouraged people to oppose marriage equality to “protect women and children”, explaining his belief that “children should have both a mother and a father”.

Abbott even suggested it would be “best” for his own gay sister’s children to be raised by a straight couple, worsening a family feud that also led his own children to speak out in support of their aunt.

In the 1970s, Abbott reportedly said that women would never “dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons”.

He has also dismissed the climate crisis, saying that it was “probably doing good”.